The Committee was asked to consider the issues surrounding procurement and use of Single Use Plastic and proposals for a Single Use Plastics Policy and Action Plan.
Local authorities had a crucial role in addressing the global climate change crisis and action was needed to reduce carbon emissions generated in Derbyshire. The County Council was building on measures already in place by removing single use plastics from catering at County Hall and minimising use of single use plastics across all operations.
Governance of climate change within the Council had been reviewed with Theme Teams, each with a named lead officer, co-ordinating and delivering projects across departments - the Theme Lead for Single Use Plastics was Procurement, working collaboratively with Waste colleagues and with input from other relevant themes as necessary.
In the UK, it was estimated that five million tonnes of plastic were used every year, nearly half of which was packaging used just once. The low cost of plastic had encouraged the development of many single use plastic (SUP) items, often used in packaging, consumer products, cosmetics, personal protective equipment and healthcare products. Appendix 2 of the report provided a comprehensive list of SUPs used by the Council.
There were several key issues linked to the development of a SUP policy:
· Plastic pollution was litter - the quality of our environment contributed greatly to the local economy and supported a diverse range of habitats and species which were at risk due to plastic pollution and was costly to clear up. Tiny particles, known as micro-plastics represented a real threat to our ecosystems which contaminated the food web. By reducing or removing SUPs, the County Council was leading by example in finding alternatives to the types of SUPs that would pollute the environment if not disposed of correctly.
· Disposal of waste plastics – it was recognised that all waste had a value and could be used elsewhere however, there was a need to develop alternatives through supporting research and innovation and to develop the circular economy to ensure SUP was not an end product but part of a cycle. The UK Government estimated that 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds ended up in landfill every year. Replacing these items with alternatives that were biodegradable or recyclable was a major technological and economic challenge – Appendix 3 of the report provided the difference between recyclable, biodegradable and compostable plastics.
· SUP was found in in many products, with recyclable or readily biodegradable alternatives not always being available. Products that were available were often more expensive and the Council recognised the impact on Council finances, providing staff with guidelines on acceptable levels of increased cost.
· Plastic contributed to climate change - fossil fuel production chemicals were used to make almost all plastics therefore, by reducing or removing SUPs, the County Council was helping to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, thereby reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The UK Government published its 25-Year Environment Plan in 2018, with a target to “achieving zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042” and in 2018 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published Our waste, our resources: A strategy for England which set out several plastic waste reduction reforms including a plastic packaging tax, introducing a Deposit Return Scheme and consistency in household and business recycling collections in England. Successive UK Governments had also signed-up to many international agreements aimed at reducing plastic in the marine environment.
It was important the Council played its part in these agreements, therefore the development of a Sustainable Procurement Policy would be considered in the context of SUPs. A draft outline Single Use Plastic Policy for the Council and suggested key actions were set out in Appendices 4 and 5.
Committee members asked questions following the presentation around local authority suppliers and procurement. It was recognised that keeping costs down and tackling the amount of waste generated by the public and the Authority was a challenge. In view of the pace of changes in this area, the Committee requested that the Policy was reviewed on an annual basis as opposed to every three years.
RESOLVED – that the Committee (1) support the further development of a the Single Use Plastics policy based on the initial draft.
2) recommend that the policy is reviewed annually Members proposed an amendment to the review period to annually from three years; and
3) resolve to support the further development for submission for Cabinet approval of a policy based on the initial draft outlined in Appendix 4 to the report.